Beginning this spring we decided to switch our brood frames to the Mann Lake small cell plastic frames.
Starting with two hives, #1 was booming, so we put 4 frames of brood into a new box, filled the rest of the box with the small cell, add new queen and moved away. All went well in the queen acceptance, etc. We added another box of small cell foundation when we brought them back home.
The original hive (#1)we replaced the missing frames with the SC.
Third hive we requeened as they were not doing well and added a couple frames of SC.
During all of this we were feeding some, but probably not enough.
Now, it's June 30th, and our split is refusing to work all but a couple frames of the SC. I moved the brood nest to the side and inserted a SC frame into the middle of it about a month ago and they have drawn comb on a spot about softball sized, nothing in it. They are hardly doing anything in the upper brood box. They have a honey super on, and it has some in it, but not much.
#1 is ignoring completely the SC frames and has one honey super full and poking around in another. Today in frustration, I took the SC back out (4 frames) and gave them back full sized drawn frames.
#3 is ignoring the SC, which in this hive was one frame and on the very edge, so I see why they are ignoring it. But they have virtually no stores of honey made. So I know the queen was accepted, the bees are obviously her offspring and much calmer, but don't know what's going on with this one.
At this point I'm afraid they're going to be weak hives going into winter. I'm more interested in them living through the winter than I am honey production. Is my best thought to take the honey supers off, feed heavy and hope to finish the building work this fall that should have been done in the spring or what?
This is only our second year with bees, so any advice is welcome.
Last edited by CreamPuffFarm; 06-30-2012 at 08:02 PM.
Re: Regression hitches...
I may be pointing out the obvious, but why don't you leave the honey super on? If it has honey, and bees need honey to survive the winter, why take it off?
Second, this is the time of year for me when the bees quit making honey and go into summer survival mode, shrinking the broodnest to smaller than a soccer ball. They quit harvesting honey (there's precious little blooming) and they won't build comb. In fact, if there is foundation in the hive, they will eat it. Is it similar in your area?
Third, just to avoid confusion, SC means small cell, generally meaning wax foundation. PF is Mann Lake's offering, it stands for plastic frame, and the cell size is 0.05mm larger. In my mind at least, there is a distinction between the two. I also would not like the line between SC and foundationless (and so called 'natural cell'), but I digress. Knowing consistently and accurately what we are dealing with will help us better diagnose problems.
Anyway, this time of year I would not be splitting up the broodnest. Like I said, here, they won't draw comb and y'all get less rain that we do. I've taken to switching out foundation frames with plastic ones this time of year so at least they won't be eating the foundation. The bees will draw the PF well enough, but they need impetus to do it. Without a decent nectar flow (or feeding) and brooding up period, it's not a priority.
Something else to keep in mind is what is your fall flow like? Will they bring in the required honey at that time?
Re: Regression hitches...
I would be glad to leave a super on. I did that last year with two hives and they didn't really touch it. One of the hives even died. ?? So it seemed a bit of a waste to leave them on there.
I don't know about them eating foundation, had never heard of that. Are you saying they're eating the wax foundation? I have only plastic in all the hives.
Sorry for any size confusion. I have all plastic frames from Mann Lake with the smaller cell size, so whatever you call that.
Should I take the empty brood frame back out of the center of the nest and just leave them alone?
We usually have a decent fall flow here, I believe. However, we are once again in a horrid drought. Second year of it. I'm not sure what our fall flow will be like. Last year we had tons of asters and all the hives smelled like aster.
It seems like my mistake was not feeding them enough syrup this spring.
Re: Regression hitches...
I think you need to draw most frames on a good flow or when the bees are expanding in the spring on feed. You can't do it this time of year without a flow because the bees know from the sun what time of the year it is and what their priorities need to be. You might put your project on hold til next spring. Then take your bees early and move the broodnest into a box and surround it with the sc frames. Put the old combs with feed under a queen excluder on the bottom boards and let the bees move the stores up. When the bees are using both the sc frames and the old, move the old to the outside of the broodnest until they are broodless and then move them out of the hive. It worked for me and I am still doing it.